Winter Games Athletes
One of the NHL’s top two-way forwards, Kesler makes his second appearance on the U.S. Olympic team after scoring two goals in Vancouver 2010 - including one in the gold-medal game overtime loss to Canada. That tournament came in the midst of his breakout year in the NHL - a 25-goal, 75-point season that earned him a six-year, $30 million contract extension from the Canucks just a month after the Olympics ended. Kesler’s best season came a year later, when he scored 41 goals and won the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward on a Vancouver team that was a win away from claiming the Stanley Cup. He scored only 22 goals in 2011-12, later revealing that he’d played nearly half the season with a torn labrum. The Michigan native missed 31 games last season due to his shoulder rehab and a foot injury, leaving some questions about whether the U.S. would want him to return in Sochi. But Kesler has eased some of those doubts by scoring 20 goals in the first 60 games this season while leading the NHL in ice time among forwards. Kesler only has 18 assists in 2013-14, but he could find himself in a more favorable situation to play set-up man in the Olympics if he’s again flanked by Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and Kings captain Dustin Brown. There are more gifted goal scorers on the U.S. team - Kane among them - but there may not be more of a complete package than Kesler, whose play at both ends will be vital to the Americans’ hopes of gold.